Melting Ice habitats projected to transform sealife

Melting Ice habitats projected to transform sealife

Research vessel, Lance, is conducting research on the Arctic landscape and its decreasing biodiversity.

Somewhere along the Arctic ice-cap north of Svalbard, there is a retired seal hunting boat turned research exploration vessel called ‘Lance’ docked and collecting data every day. The vessel is operated by the Norwegian Polar Institute and is conducting research on the Arctic landscape and its biodiversity. What they have found out so far is not exactly good news, according to the info presented in this barents observer article. What they’ve found is that the old, thicker ice which covered the Arctic landscape is melting away, and according to Harald Steen, the Lance expedition leader, “what we do know from our various expeditions and dives over the last few years, is that biodiversity under the thinner ice has drastically gone down.”

Melting ice, dying sea life. As Arctic waters become warmer, the older, basal layers of ice crystals will melt away, Steen said. “Algae living within icy pores and hanging off the icy platforms will just fall off and sink.” As the tiny organisms that have been thriving in the ice die off, it is expected to set off a chain reaction down the food chain, affecting such creatures as king crab, narwhal, and beluga wales.

If the primary productivity changes (and it looks like it will) then Arctic species that depend on the small species for nutrients and energy farther down the food chain will change as well.  “Eventually, we will most likely get overrun with southern boreal species that are more suited to the new environment,” he said.  “It’s a working hypothesis at this point, but it might be a very different Arctic years from now.”

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